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BLM El Malpais NCA - Joe Skeen Campground

Campground or RV Park

Stop in and enjoy the tranquility and scenery of this high desert campground set back from the highway. The loop drive allows a choice of sites from cliff edge to cliff base. Note if any wind is predicted, so you can chose the best site. Verizon runs the closest cell tower and is best received in the north end of the campground. The vegetation is Pinyon and Juniper shrubs with views of majestic cliffs.

Each of the 10 free sites has a covered picnic table, fire grill, and tent space. There are 2 vault toilets. Some of the sites have pull through parking ideal for total lengths up to 50 feet. There is a steep arroyo at the entrance, so long vehicle drivers should inspect it firsthand before entering. Maximum persons per campsite is 8 and maximum vehicles are 2 per campsite parked only on gravel without blocking the road. The road is graveled and passable in most conditions. Wait for water in the arroyo to leave before attempting any crossing.

Quiet hours are from 10PM to 6 AM and prohibit music, parties, or generators. ATV vehicle use is forbidden in the campsite. Any ATV must remained secured on a trailer. No horses, livestock, or animal carcass are permitted in the campground. Pets must be leashed. Firewood and any other collecting is prohibited. Check with local authorities for open fires regulations for each day. No fireworks or firearms can be discharged in the campground.

Your stay is limited to 7 total days in 4 weeks. The total stay in this NCA (National Conservation Area) is limited to 14 days in 4 weeks.

The closest free formal camp site is at El Morro National Monument - about an hour's drive. BLM, NPS, & USFS all have dispersed camping - check with each in person for current details. Blue Water Lake is the closest NM State Park.

Drivers coming from I-40 should drive south for 11 miles on State Road 117 from the Quemado exit #89. Around 11 miles south there is a sharp bend in the road from southerly to westerly. It is delineated by multiple yellow square signs with black chevrons pointing to the right. Slow down. The unmarked camp entrance is between the 3rd and 4th chevron on the left (east) side of SR 117. Once you turn into the campground there is a sign: Joe Skeen BLM Camping. After dark arrivals coming from I-40 will see DOT red/white reflectors on the yellow cattleguard at the highway entrance. Please pass quietly and respectfully, if you must enter or leave during quiet hours.

Happy Camping!

Driving Directions

From exit 89 on I-40 go south on NM-117 for 11 miles. Stop in at the ranger station to fill your water bottle (limit 5 gallons per person) during operating hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. As the highway curves right (south westerly) for the first time since the ranger station under 2 miles back turn in at the third horizontal black on yellow chevron by the yellow cattle guard and see the sign, "BLM Campground."

Maximum Campsite Spur Length

Drivers of vehicles with low clearance or over 30 feet should check the dip at the entrance to insure clearance.

Maximum Length of Stay Allowed

7 days per 28 days

Maximum Number of People Cabin or Fire Lookout May Accommodate

8 persons. 2 vehicles (that can fit in site parking spot) per site

Number of Camp Sites

10 primitive sites


Nightly Fee



Universally Accessible


Campground Style


Nearby Places